Coraline (Laika Entertainment, 2009)

Coraline is terrific stop-motion animated movie, directed and co-written by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas). A great thing about this movie is that it treads on new turf; for example, it's the first stop-motion animation in 3-D, and rarely if ever has cutting edge animation been wedded to such sheer, supernatural 'offbeatness.' To give you an idea of its nature, it's Labyrinth meets 2001: The Space Odyssey, sharing motifs with the former and being as grand, sumptuous, and offbeat as 2001.

At the center of the story is 11-year-old Coraline, voiced by Dakota Fanning (Hide and Seek). She and her parents move into a subdivision of an old house in Oregon. For someone 11, she can be a rather acerbic gal, but that probably reflects that she's chronically ignored by her parents, especially mom. Coraline's also an explorer, but one in training -- she loves mud and the outdoors, but on rainy days when she can't go outside, her dad has to give her a gentle push to explore her new home.

Catching her eye one day is a doorway. It opens to a portal that sends her to a new world, parallel in key respects yet apparently more attractive. It boasts everything from groovier, more attentive parents, better meals, and a model train on the dinner table that delivers gravy for you, to impossibly colorful gardens, a circus of talented mice, and a mute but good-natured version of a pesky age mate she's semi-friends with in her other world. She's sold.

And so was I. This movie can hardly be over-praised. It's not that there are no flaws, but that it doesn't matter. Its 'sumptuousness factor' is roughly on a par with 2001; and, as in that movie, we're treated to enough periods of understated action, offbeat images, and moody music/sound effects that cue us just to sit back and absorb the trip. As for the 3-D, well, I'm an old-school lover of 3-D, and I must say that this movie breaks ground in how skillfully it weaves the 3-D factor into its fabric. There's no gimmick here; in fact, something would be lost by seeing this movie in 2-D. But Coraline would still be excellent.

Kudos should go to all of those who were involved in making this film. Go enjoy the stunning finished product and stay through to the end of credits, where you'll see some mind-blowing 3-D effects. I'm not sure where people come up with this stuff, but I'm glad they do.

Overall grade: A+

reviewed by Dave Nofer

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